Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2013, 11:10 pm

Third-quarter finish sparks final push as Ridgewood bests Annawan

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By Terry Duckett,

WOODHULL -- With the third quarter winding down Friday night, the Annawan Braves looked ready to hit their stride and race to the finish.

But after DeAngelo Washington's 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in the quarter gave Annawan its first lead since early in the second period, the Ridgewood Spartans struck a pair of blows that reversed both teams' fortunes in the Lincoln Trail Conference boys' basketball showdown.

First, sophomore Joey Lambin answered Washington with a 3-pointer of his own. Then, senior teammate Elisha McCreary stole the ensuing inbounds pass and scored as time expired, turning a two-point deficit into a three-point lead as the Spartans kept on rolling to a 64-51 LTC victory on AlWood's Hall of Fame night at Walt Minder Gymnasium.

"That was a huge boost for our team, and it took the wind out of their sails,'' said Lambinof Ridgewood's closing swing which helped boost the Spartans to 8-7 and 2-0 in league play. "We didn't play our game until the end. We saved it for last, but we shouldn't have done that.''

Lambin (16 points, four 3-pointers) knocked down two more treys to open the fourth and McCreary continued a strong second half in which he scored 14 of his 16 points. That allowed Ridgewood to reel off a 14-2 run as it opened a 58-44 lead and handed the Braves (6-12) their first loss in three LTC outings.

"Basically, what we're trying to do is gain respect,'' said Lambin, who also had five rebounds. "That's why we practice hard every day -- for games like this.''

Throughout the first half, Annawan kept it close. After the teams played to a 7-7 first-period draw, the offense came to life for both as the Spartans worked their way to a five-point lead, only to see the Braves claw back to within 20-19 as Washington (seven points, seven rebounds) beat the halftime buzzer.

And after an 8-2 Ridgewood spurt put the hosts up 34-28, Annawan put itself back in position to take the lead into the fourth quarter as Tony Gripp scored eight of his team-best 13 points. That almost happened except for that crucial closing five-point swing by the Spartans.

"I told them that one play didn't win or lose this game,'' said Annawan coach Brandon Christy, who also got 10 points and eight boards from Grant Baele. "We had the momentum really going our way, then within five seconds, we go from being up two to down three. That was the turning point in the game. After that, Ridgewood went on a run, forced us to take quick shots and took us out of our game plan.

"They're a good solid team and they worked hard, but we're not at full strength. Mike Smith is out with a foot injury, and Micam Smith hurt his back in (the first half of) this game. The team out there tonight was not us.''

Meantime, the Spartan squad that came to play in the fourth quarter is the one head coach Casey Adamson was hoping would show up all along.

"We were definitely looking for something to spark us; we were not playing our game the first three quarters,'' said Adamson, who also got 15 points from Sam Althaus and 13 from Ridge Greenman, who also hit three treys to help the Spartans to their seventh win in 10 games.

"The momentum is building for us along with our confidence. We know we have a tough road ahead of us, and we'll take what we can get. We're extremely happy with where we're at now.''